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Speech By Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister For Social And Family Development At The Professional Development Programme (PDP) Appointment Ceremony, 12 July 2023

Type: Official Speeches (All), Official Speeches: Masagos Zulkifli

Topic(s): Children & Families, Social Service Agencies & Partners, Social Service Professionals


Professional Development Programme 2023 participants,

Nominators and Operators,

Colleagues,

 

Introduction

1      A very good afternoon to all of you. I am very happy to join you at the Professional Development Programme Ceremony.

2      Every year, we come together at this Ceremony to celebrate talented early childhood educators who want to develop professionally and take their careers to the next level through the PDP. The PDP aims to prepare educators to take on larger responsibilities in their organisations. This year, we have 459 educators and leaders who have committed to being part of this batch of PDP. Congratulations to all of you!

Progress in Early Childhood Sector and Profession

3      The EC sector has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, we all know the importance of the early years in moulding young minds, and correspondingly the important role that EC educators like you play.

4      In the past decade, we have invested significantly in the EC profession. In 2019, MOE set up the National Institute of Early Childhood Development to work with ECDA to raise the standard of EC training. We have provided more resources and opportunities to support educators as they upskill and advance throughout their career. The PDP is just one of many programmes and schemes available.  

5      Over the years, we have also supported salary improvements in Government-supported preschools to recognise EC educators’ increasing contributions and professional skillsets. We will continue to monitor and support salary improvements in Government-supported preschools in the coming years.

Launch of EC ITM 2025

6      Moving forward, we must continue to invest in the EC sector and bring it to the next level. Like other sectors, we must be sensitive to changing needs and find ways to innovate and improve, so we can better support EC professionals and provide better care and education for our children. Today, I am pleased to launch the refreshed EC Industry Transformation Map (ITM) 2025. The EC ITM 2025 serves as a roadmap for the next phase of the EC sector’s transformation and builds on our existing efforts to make the EC profession even more attractive.

7      The next phase of the EC sector’s transformation will need to ensure that we address evolving preschool needs and uplift the quality of the sector. For example, we will explore different service models to better serve emerging needs, such as greater capacity needed for care in the early years and for children with diverse learning needs. There is also opportunity for preschools to leverage research to improve the quality of preschool programmes and teaching.

8      Equally important, the EC ITM 2025 will support a thriving EC profession. For example, we will support preschools in going digital to improve service delivery and reduce educators’ administrative workload. This will allow them to focus more on children’s development in the classroom.

An Environment Where EC Professionals Can Thrive

9      Many EC professionals decide to join the sector because they want to play a part in the holistic development of our children. Just like other professions, EC professionals need a positive working environment where they can thrive and do their best as professionals to nurture our children. 

10   Indeed, when our educators are well cared for, they can better care for and nurture our children. From ECDA’s engagements with the sector, educators said that there could be further improvements in the areas of workplace safety and health. They hoped for more time to recharge and reflect, as well as upgrade their skills to do better for our young.

11   Working conditions for our educators is an important area of focus for us. Last year, I announced that we will engage various stakeholders on the need to keep childcare centres open on Saturdays. Over the past 10 months, we have surveyed over 8,000 parents and nearly 800 childcare centres across different operator types to gain insights on the demand for Saturday childcare services and spoken to about 100 parents, educators, and operators to gather different viewpoints.

12   98% of surveyed families using preschool services do not require Saturday childcare services. They shared that they are able to care for children themselves or tap on alternatives. Among the remaining 2%, we observed that there were families who require care arrangements on Saturdays as both parents may be working. The number of these families were small.

13    There was general consensus amongst parents that closing childcare centres on Saturdays would enable educators to have better work-life balance and improve their well-being. Indeed, the expectation to work on Saturdays weighs down on educators, who want to spend more time with their families on weekends and recharge.

14   As the majority of parents do not use Saturday services, we needed to assess whether it is necessary for educators to work on Saturdays but only look after a small number of children.  

Removal of Saturday Services from 1 January 2025 

15   After consultations and careful consideration of the different needs, ECDA has decided to remove the requirement for childcare centres to operate on Saturdays, with effect from 1 January 2025. This means that from 2025, childcare centres would only operate from Mondays to Fridays, without need for provision of a half-day Saturday childcare service.

16   As many childcare centres are already seeing no to low demand for Saturday childcare services, to allow educators and preschools to benefit from this change earlier, starting from 1 January 2024, we will:

  1. First, allow childcare centres to not operate on Saturdays if there is no demand.
  2. Second, allow operators with multiple centres to aggregate demand and operate designated centres on Saturdays. In effect, this will allow operators to activate a smaller number of educators back on Saturdays to care for the children at a specific centre, than for each centre to have their educators return on Saturdays.
  3. Third, there will be no Saturday childcare for new preschool enrolments from 1 January 2024 onwards.

17   Through this phased approach, we provide preschools, parents, and employers sufficient time to work out arrangements. This timeline allows the small number of families affected by this change to work out arrangements with their employers or to make alternative caregiving arrangements. We encourage employers to support employees, by exercising flexibility when rostering on Saturdays so one parent can provide care.

18   Families can also consider tapping on paid or community-based options, such as engaging informal babysitting services. These include the Home-based Childminding Programme by Daughters of Tomorrow, which aims to support low-income working parents or guardians who require alternative caregiving arrangements, and playgroup and enrichment classes conducted at Community Clubs and Centres on Saturday mornings, particularly in areas with high demand for childcare services. We will continue to explore ways to improve the caregiving options available to families who really need it.

19   To most families who are not using Saturday childcare services today, the removal of Saturday childcare service will not cause any inconvenience. But the significance to EC educators will be great, as they move towards a five-day work week and spend more time on themselves and with their family. This will help retain them in the sector, while attracting more Singaporeans to join and support the ongoing expansion of preschool places. Ultimately, a more engaged and supported EC workforce will benefit families and our children’s learning.

Conclusion

20   The EC sector today is very different compared to 10 years ago and it is poised to transform further to be more vibrant and exciting under the EC ITM 2025.

21   As we continue to make the EC profession a career of choice, we strongly encourage more Singaporeans to join the sector. To our in-service educators, I commend you for continuing on this meaningful journey to nurture our children and support their diverse learning needs. 

22   Once again, congratulations to all PDP participants. I am excited for your growth and the impact you will make to the children you work with, as well as fellow educators you would guide and partner towards our common vision to give every child a good start in life.

23   Thank you.